IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS
The 2016 EU-Turkey Deal promised $6B to Turkey for stopping refugees from crossing into Greece. The “Balkan Route” was closed, trapping tens of thousands of refugees inside Greece and The Balkans. I spent the following summer walking the same path so my students back in America could see how this crisis was evolving. See the entire series on my Instagram- @dfherman
Smuggler’s Beach sits below an abandoned cliffside resort refugees used prior to their gamble on a crossing to Chios. Hundreds have drowned crossing due to rough seas and overloaded whitewater rafts. Many, if not all refugees, had previously never been on the open water and couldn't swim when they spent thousands of Euros per person to reach Chios, Greece.
What was left behind in the rush to board overloaded boats in the dead of night to cross to Chios, Greece and reach the EU.
Souda Refugee Camp- Chios Town, Greece.
Gut punch when you come around the corner of an ancient castle city wall and see this! Over 1,000 live in this official camp run by the municipality of Chios Town.
VIAL Refugee Camp up in mountains of Chios. Not enough room in a post here to discuss how deplorable this place is, and every refugee must pass through it to register. Surprisingly, I was able to walk right in as exterior guards thought I was “just another refugee.”
All over Greece camps like VIAL, a former aluminum factory, are constantly reporting violence. Multiple men wandered the areas around the central building with arms in slings, legs in bandages and visible bruises. Scores are settled at night, with multiple reports of police simply stepping back and letting it all unfold.
Cameras are not allowed inside, but some refugees were willing to share what they have experienced, witnessed and recorded on their phones.
Souda was once an independent camp functioning off collaborative NGOs running specific aspects of need-based support. Now Souda is run by the municipality of Chios Town, and talk centers around all being relocated to Vial, which is already over-crowded. Despite NGO efforts, refugees now live in temporary housing on a permanent basis.
With just four gender-mixed showed stations and limited toilets, it a long fall for most who had full-time jobs, cars and owned homes. Now they are forced to live in a former parking lot beneath the ancient castle walls just a five-minute walk from touristy cafes and bars their former purchasing power would have permitted them to frequent.
Souda Refugee Camp. NGOs like "A Drop in the Ocean" (Norway) and Zaporeak Solidario (Basque Country, Spain) distribute meals 3x a day with an explicit attempt to ensure nutritious meals are available compared to inedible "food" given out at VIAL Govt Camp. Yet, many refugees say the food isn't always better.
The card in this mother's hand must be checked each time she receives food in a similar fashion to the "Libreta" ration cards used in Cuba after the Soviet Union collapsed ( and still to this day).
Eric Kempson, his wife Philippa and daughter Elleni have lived on the north coast of Lesvos for 16yrs. Contrary to popular belief, there are no official NGOs operating on the front lines. All volunteer efforts- spearheaded by the Kempsons- are what ensure this many people actually make it across safely.
A very real and serious message that for some is now the only option. A ruthless smuggling industry has exploded after the EU and Turkey signed a deal and to close the borders of Europe, trapping islands of refugees in Greece and Serbia.
Nearly all refugees have used a smuggler at some point, if not throughout their journey from war zones to seek asylum. Next to none initially chose Greece as their intended destination, yet nearly 60,000 are currently here either awaiting word on asylum status, family reunification or a dreaded, and probable, deportation back to Turkey.
Area beneath building at Piraeas Port Gate E2 where refugees would escape the blazing sun. Only a lazy guard dog accompanied while inspecting this totally cleared out area.
Over 10,000 refugees dwelled here just before the EU-Turkey deal was bi-laterally signed. The deal, which was never ratified still made it possible to clear the informal camp and relocate people outside the city center.
Refugees from the port have been relocated to "hospitality" camps outside the city center including the terminal at an abandoned airport and former Olympic stadium.
The following was posted on www.solidarity2refugees.gr
THE MURDEROUS ATTACK ON NOTARA 26 DOES NOT HOLD US BACK
The fire bomb attack on refugee housing squat Notara 26 is a despicable racist crime. Beyond material damage, the fire threatened over 100 refugees inside the squatted building. It is clear the goal of the criminals was to spread terror among refugees and solidarians. In the sick climate created, on the one hand, by evacuation of squats in Thessaloniki and, on the other, by the ceaseless smear campaign against the solidarity movement, fascists feel they are free to roam.
Yet they are mistaken! The Refugee Solidarity Movement WILL NOT BE HELD BACK by firebombs, just as it wasn't by riot police earlier. The murderous attack on Notara 26 does not scare us, it enrages us. We remain on the side of the refugees, we insist on a culture of solidarity against the barbarism or racism.
We live together, we struggle together, we will win together!
-Solidarity to the Notara 26 Refugee Housing Squat.
For thousands of refugees on the islands like Lesvos and Chios, the dream is to escape camps like Moria and Vial and reach Athens. Protests and solidarity marches to raise awareness over the inhumane conditions in these island camps push for an end to the illegal “containment policy” holding refugees in place after the EU-Turkey deal in 2016.
But the truly disturbing reality is that many who do get to leave the islands are destined for a life of homelessness on the streets of Athens. And yet, most still claim the streets are safer than the "hospitality" camps after Port Piraeas was cleared out.
For many like this refugee from Mosul, Iraq, homelessness on the streets of Athens is safer than the "hospitality" camps after Port Piraeas was cleared out.
Hard to believe over 10,000 refugees were living at multiple Gates in Piraeus Port just 12 weeks ago.
Just one refugee family still calling home a scratch of shaded grass behind a cafe frequented by vacationers boarding boats for a very different world on resort islands Santorini and Mykonos.
Imagine having to leave your country and viewing Athens as just a stop over.
Now imagine this departure terminal is a permanent layover.
If you were in Piraeas Port in 2016, and from Afghanistan, chances are high you spent time inside this now abandoned airport. And much like an overnight layover or extended delay, no beds are provided.
Refugees being housed in this abandoned airport terminal are literally living just off the tarmac once used for boarding international flights. Guard dogs now patrol the perimeter, alarms sound if you cross onto the physical property of the terminal.
Yet this is called an “open” camp where Afghans have been relocated to once 10,000 refugees were cleared out of Piraeas Port three months prior.